BCBC on Friday, NHC on Sunday for Jeff Bussan; A BIG Sunday Double-Up for Steve Arrison; Loyal Sprague and Patricia Mathews Leave Little to Chance (Weekly Recap April 29-May 3)

I guess you could say that last week was Derby Week…even though we weren’t allowed to use the one Derby on the racing schedule. Then again, when you think about it, that’s always the case! So it was a somewhat typical Derby Week as far as HorseTourneys was concerned…which meant lots of winners and big prizes—just like always. The featured-tourney winning got under way on Wednesday.

Jayson Rockett rocked Wednesday’s $75 NHC qualifier with three winners followed by two placings, and that got him the coveted Bally’s Berth.

Wednesday’s top score was registered by Peter Kovic.

Kovic had Foxrun ($37.00, $9.00 in the 8th at Will Rogers Downs) among his 5 firsts and 1 second, and that meant the top prize of $2,695 was his in Wednesday’s $2,000 Guaranteed cash game, which finished up with a final purse of $5,391.

For the second time in three weeks, Wednesday was Celebration Day for Alexa Zepp.

On April 15th, Zepp earned a $2,000 entry to the August 15-16 Spa & Surf Showdown, and last Wednesday, she picked up a second entry to the $150,000 Guaranteed online cash event thanks to 4 winners and 2 places. Zepp’s initials, of course are “AZ.” And A to Z sort of sums up everything Zepp has been winning thus far in 2020.

Another hot player these days is Mark Stillmock.

On April 22nd, Stillmock finished first in a $75 NHC qualifier. Last Friday, he cashed for $8,977 in the day’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (final total pot: $19,950). Stillmock didn’t exactly make a mockery of this tourney. His final score of $66.00 edged Kevin Fitzgerald by just 60 cents. But victories count the same here whether they’re by a lot or a little, and Stillmock’s 3 wins & 2 places got the job done. His biggest collection came with Miss My Macho ($15.60, $7.40) in the 9th at Gulfstream.

A similar score got Rick Vasquez into the winner’s circle.

His tally of $65.40—built upon 4 winners and a runner up—got him a $2,000 entry to the Spa & Surf Showdown where he will tangle with Alexa Zepp and all the other qualifiers (and buyer-inners).

Over at HorsePlayers a score in the 60s—in this case, exactly $60.00—also did the trick for Jeff Bussan.

Three wins and three places earned him a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry (and his winning ways weren’t done for the weekend…more on that later).

The star of Friday, though, was undoubtedly the defending (as in 2019) Horse Player World Series Champ Loyal Sprague.

Sprague seemed to be breathing different air than everyone else on this day. By the time his scorecard had reached the 60s in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers, he was just beginning to hit his stride.

Sprague (a Las Vegas restauranteur who originally hails from Chicago) put in three entries in this one and any one of them on their own would have taken home an NHC spot. Here’s a look at his “good” ticket.

Oh to have a day when our good entry is as good as Sprague’s crummy one!

We’re not sure whether Sprague didn’t realize that NHC rules permit only one seat to be won in a given qualifier…or if he executed this three-pronged strategy on purpose. But his three entries were far from scattershot attempts. In none of the 10 races did Sprague use three different horses across his three entries. In four of the 10 races, he used the same horse on all three tickets…and those picks went four-for-four! Talk about being “on”!

While Sprague stole pretty much all the headlines here, there were, indeed, two other players to exit this competition with NHC seats: 3rd-place finisher John Sheeran and 5th-place contestant Darwin Labordo—and they both had fine days in their own right, winding up with scores that would have captured any of the day’s other three featured tourneys. Congratulations (and thanks) to Loyal, John and Darwin for putting on quite a show here!

The high scorer on Saturday also achieved the distinction by a wide margin.

It was Steve Simonovic who put up 6 winners (and didn’t bother with runners up) in Saturday’s NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

It has become commonplace lately for NHC qualifiers guaranteeing two seats to wind up awarding three due to robust entry counts. This one was no exception and so runner-up Charley Witt AND show horse Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza will be joining Simonovic at Bally’s next February. For Witt, we are told this is his 10th career NHC qualification!

In the other Saturday HorsePlayers feature, Rick Eber nailed four of the first five winners and never looked back.

Eber finished his day with 5 wins, 2 places and one $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry. Well done!

The big winner of the day in terms of earnings was NHC Hall of Famer Paul Shurman in Saturday’s $25,000 Guaranteed tourney.

The Dix Hills, N.Y. barrister had 3 wins and 2 places on the day, but it was that final race winner—with Paint the Corners ($12.20, $6.00)—that got him into first place and served as a called strike three on his opponents. Shurman earned $14,174 from a final overall purse of $35,435.

Brendan Fay’s big horse on Saturday was Micheline ($37.40, $11.20) in the 9th at Gulfstream.

Micheline plus three other winners gave Fay a firm grip on the road in Saturday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier. Fay now advances to the $150,000 Gtd. all-Saratoga-and-Del Mar tourney on August 15-16.

Once again on Sunday, the day’s high score came in the day’s NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. The event also featured the weekend’s first repeat winner.

Phil Hoedebeck locked down an NHC berth by leading the pack with 4 wins and a place. Here’s his best-of-day scorecard:

Runner up Jeff Bussan picked up an NHC seat to go with the BCBC entry he captured on Friday. His Sunday score ($122.60) was more than twice as high as his Friday score ($60.00), though he had a couple of races more to work with on Sunday.

As was the case with Hoedebeck and Bussan, James Connors’s big collection came with Dance D’Oro ($43.20, $14.60) in the 7th at Gulfstream. That was one of just 2 winners and 1 place recorded by Connors, who narrowly got the third and final seat (after coming up just short on Saturday) over a hard-luck Dave Tuley.

It was hard luck for Tuley especially because he somehow failed to enter a Pick & Pray selection for the 10th at Gulfstream. Had he just gone with Outshine, who was both the morning line and eventual post time favorite, Tuley (a popular commentator on VSIN) would have finished third since Outshine won and returned $5.80 to win and $4.00 to place.

Things were more straightforward at HorsePlayers in Sunday’s BCBC Low Ratio qualifier…which turned into a BCBCBC qualifier.

That’s because the top prize is headed to BC…as in British Columbia. That’s where winner Allan Sadler lives (in North Vancouver, to be precise). 

Allan Sadler (photo credit: Vancouver Sun)

Sadler had 6 firsts (including Dance D’Oro) and 2 seconds to claim the $10,000 entry.

The day’s single biggest prize went to Cayne Collier, despite his picking just one winner.

The winner, not surprisingly, was Dance D’Oro…and Collier added 5 place collections to the Gulfstream windfall to get his own personal windfall of $14,960 in our $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, which closed up shop with a total purse of $21,372. Your next Big Bucks opportunity comes next Sunday.

You will also have an opportunity next Sunday to scoop the pot in our $8 Pick 6 Jackpot tourney…because no one did so this past Sunday.

Three players were alive after three races, but no one’s scorecard remained unblemished thereafter. Patricia Mathews had 4 winners—on each of her identical entries—to finish first and second. Next week’s Jackpot, since there were no perfect tickets on Sunday, will start out at $10,245.

Despite not having 20-1 Gulfstream longshot Dance D’Oro, Steve Arrison managed to win on Sunday…comfortably…twice!

Arrison booked his return trip to The BIG One thanks to having Summer Love ($28.80, $13.40 in the 7th at Tampa) among his 3 wins and 3 places…

…and he played the same picks back for another “hand-ride” triumph in Sunday’s NHC Low Ratio qualifier here at HorseTourneys.

Lisa Cipriano (3 wins, 1 place) did have Dance D’Oro, and that led to a big score—both on the leaderboard and in her bank account.

Cipriano’s final total of $130.00 meant a first-place prize of $11,528 in Sunday’s live-format, $12,500 Guaranteed tourney, which ended up with a purse of $28,820. Anthony Trezza, who scored an NHC seat on Saturday, picked up $4,611 for finishing second here.

Ed Peters didn’t cash a thing in the final four races…

…but he had 4 winners and a runner up over the first eight to take home a $2,000 entry to the Spa & Surf Showdown on August 15-16.

Top-notch Exacta tourney player Frank Fosbre had a precarious $2.00 lead heading into the final race of Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed gimmick game…

…but then, in the last race, Fosbre showed why he has earned the adjective “top-notch.” He connected for an $89.20 hit in the nightcap—his 6th winning three-horse exacta box of the day—to hold the $1,378 top prize safe from any would-be interlopers. The final purse for the game was $1,968.

Of course, here at HorseTourneys, you can go from “interloper” to “top notch” featured-tourney player in just a matter of a couple of hours. Your next chance takes place on Wednesday. In the meantime, thank you for spending part of your “Derby weekend” with us.